This is the first installment at a look at US Navy cruise books. Formatted like a college or high school yearbook, the publication was printed for members of the ship's crew during a particular cruise. Quality can vary according to the whims of the editor. Many are mostly crew photographs, which is logical, but if there are few photographs of the ship, the volume is of very limited value. For a modeler or naval historian, a volume with a lot of photography of the ship, ship's fittings and in the case of an aircraft carrier, aircraft, is what is sought. The 1951 CV-31 cruise book of Bon Homme Richard is such a wonderful book. The photographs shown are only the most interesting photos from the volume. There are many more but only the ones most useful for the modeler are shown.
At the end paper of Second Hitch USS Bon Homme Richard CV-31 is a two page photograph of the carrier all cocooned in mothballs at Puget Sound following World War Two. This photograph should have been at the front of the book. The USN needed more carriers for the Korean War and USS Bon Homme Richard was quickly made ready for combat. The Essex class carrier was little modified from World War Two as she still carried 40mm Bofors and twin 20mm Oerlikons on this first tour of Korea. This cruise book covers the refurbishment of the carrier, through her training off of San Diego, to her first combat tour off of Korea.
After having her cob webs dusted off, she received a new coat of paint and tested machinery. It had been years since her boilers had been used, so the supreme moment came when she fired up her machinery to go to war again. When Bon Homme Richard departed Puget Sound, her first destination was San Francisco. This comparatively short hop allowed the crew to work out remaining kinks in the Bonnie Dick. Another reason for a stop at San Francisco Bay, was to pick up her newest, shiniest aircraft, the Grumman F9F Panthers. For this first tour for the Korean War, the Bon Homme Richard carried a mix of old and new. The Panther was the newest fighter from the Grumman Iron Works. For the old, there were the F4U Corsairs, which were present for ground attack. The big hulking Skyraider was also carried for attack missions.
The carrier had to marry-up with her air group and to meld the two into a cohesive whole, training time was needed. The sunny coast of Southern California operating out of the fleet base at San Diego was perfect for that task. It was not just the aircrew that needed training, deck apes also needed further training in aircraft handling, aircraft retrieval, firefighting and many other required tasks.
Part of those tasks involved gun crews for the Bofors 40mm guns and five-inch/38 guns. Although photographs reflect the presence of twin 20mm Oerlikon guns, none of the photographs in this cruise book show any crews manning them.
This cruise book of Bon Homme Richard is very strong in the coverage to air operations. Almost every page is crammed with photographs of the aircraft or the ship-board routine. You will notice in a few photographs below, that the deck crew even had a SB2C Helldiver wreck with which to play.
The Bon Homme Richard wasn't designed to operate in a vacuum, so operations with other ships was included in her curriculum. Some of the tasks requiring teamwork involved underway refueling ad replenishment.
The last portion of this cruise book shows ship board scenes off of Korea. It starts with the Bonnie Dick raising anchor to steam across the Pacific. The most dramatic photographs are found there as well. Retrieving a battle damage Panther and the loss of a F4U Corsair are still riveting photographs fifty+ years later.
Second Hitch USS Bon Homme Richard CV-31 cruise book for the carrier's first Korean War tour in 1951 is an example of the type of cruise book that is excellent for the modeler. It is very strong in ship and aircraft photographs.